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Tuesday, 10 March 2015
Exhibition Marks 150th Anniversary of Russian Architect Vasily Svinyin
Topic: Architecture

The Ethnographic Department of the Russian Museum of His Imperial Majesty Alexander III (now the State Russian Museum) was to be housed next to the Mikhailovsky Palace, with the latter devoted to the museum's Department of Art. Architect Vasily Svinyin (1865-1939), who had given a good account of himself during the reconstruction of the Mikhailovsky Palace, was entrusted with designing a new building for the Ethnographic Department in St. Petersburg. 

The design work started in 1897 after the financing by governmental treasury had begun, it went at a more rapid tempo. Headed by Grand Duke George Mikhailovich and Count Dmitri Tolstoy, a state commission was formed under the name of "Construction Commission Approved by the Emperor" to control the financing, period and quality of construction, select the companies and distribute contracts. At the same time the Imperial Academy of Arts com­mission which was headed by Professor R. Haedike and included such renowned architects as L. Benois, G. Kotov and V. Suslov, was developed to discuss and finish the designs submitted by Svinyin. 

In 1904 the architect offered two alternative designs of the building. The first one was a closed square with two parallel blocks: the front one facing Mikhailovskaya Square (now Arts Square) and Inzhenernaya Street, and the garden one, with a staircase leading to the Mikhailovsky Gardens. The second one included the front block only. The commissions made their choice in favour of the second design as a less expensive one. Started in 1905 the building construction was not completed before 1910 and its interior finishing continued until 1915.

After the revolution, Svinyin burned his archive because of his high rank as architect of the Imperial Court. His fear was not unfounded, of course, due to the fact that he could be arrested, as was customary during the years of 1917-18 with any one connected to the Russian Imperial family, Court and government.

The Russian Museum of Ethnography today houses a collection of about 500,000 items relating to the ethnography, or cultural anthropology, of peoples of the former Russian Empire and the Soviet Union.

The exhibition runs until April 30, 2015 at the Russian Museum of Ethnography in St. Petersburg. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 10 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:22 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 11 March 2015 2:29 PM EDT
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Friday, 2 May 2014
A History of the Traditional Bathhouses of the Russian Tsars
Topic: Architecture

A stunning aerial view of the Lower Bathhouse, situated in the Catherine Park at Tsarskoye Selo. Photo
© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve
The following article was originally published in the May 2nd, 2014 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines. The author Alexei Khovanov owns the copyright presented below.
Take an historical tour of the beautiful bathhouses of the Russian tsars at Tsarskoye Selo and Peterhof.
Click on the link below to read the full article and view the stunning colour photographs:

A History of the Traditional Bathhouses of the Russian Tsars 

© Alexei Khovanov @ Russia Beyond the Headlines. 02 May, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:52 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 2 May 2014 9:00 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 18 December 2013
Monument to Architect Domenico Trezzini in St. Petersburg
Topic: Architecture
A monument to Domenico Trezzini has been erected in St. Petersburg. Trezzini (1670 – 1734) was a Swiss Italian architect who is considered the first architect of the northern capital. He was born in Astano, near Lugano, in the Italian-speaking Ticino region of Switzerland. He was working in Denmark, when he was offered by Peter I of Russia, among other architects, to design buildings in the new Russian capital city, St. Petersburg.

Since 1703, when the city was founded, he substantially contributed to its most representative buildings. The Peter and Paul Fortress with the Peter and Paul Cathedral, the Twelve Colleges Building (now the main building of Saint Petersburg University) as well as Peter's Summer House count among his many achievements. He also helped found and design Kronstadt and the Alexander Nevsky Monastery.

Domenico Trezzini was very important for another aspect of Russian architectural history: in founding a school based on the European model, he laid the foundations for the development of the Petrine Baroque.
As a testimony of the cordial relationship that linked Domenico Trezzini with the Tsar, his son Pietro (who also became a noted architect, not to be confused with Pietro Antonio Trezzini) had Peter I of Russia himself as a godfather.

The 3-meter, bronze monument was installed on the square which bears the name Trezzini, located in the historic district of Vassilevsky Island in St. Petersburg. The creator of the monument is St. Petersburg sculptor Pavel Ignatiev. In the early stages of planning, the sculptor was criticized over the “disproportionately small coat” worn by Trezzini in his sketches. Ignatiev, however, defended his vision of his work, maintaining that it was the style of the era. The unveiling of the monument will take place during an official ceremony to be held in February 2014.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 18 December, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:37 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 18 December 2013 5:53 AM EST
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Thursday, 25 July 2013
The Italians Who Revamped Russia
Topic: Architecture

Cathedral of the Dormition in the Moscow Kremlin. Artist: Henry Charles Brewer (1866-1950) 

Several centuries ago, the Renaissance changed the face of Moscow forever.

Having built up a prestigious and powerful state, Prince Ivan III decided to decorate his city with new buildings to reflect its grandeur. He wanted the most beautiful buildings, the latest designs and the most cutting-edge technology. So the prince sent his servants to Italy to hire the best architects of the Renaissance era to design buildings for the Kremlin complex in the center of Moscow.

“At the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries, like most European countries, Russia’s architecture experienced the Renaissance,” Moscow Architectural Institute Rector, Dmitry Shvidkovsky explained.

“Here in the Kremlin we can see the characteristics of different facets of the Italian renaissance: Venetian, Bolognese, and Milanese. It was completed with Russian ideas, giving birth to a very interesting new style that generated a revolution in Russian architecture.”

The Kremlin’s Dormition Cathedral was built by Bolognese architect Aristotel Fioravanti. Some researchers believe he was chosen by Princess Zoe Sophia Palaiologina, the second wife of Ivan III. She was the niece of the last Byzantine emperor and she had lived in Italy before marrying Ivan.

“When Sophia arrived in Moscow, she was not alone – she brought with her a grand entourage. We know that the main Kremlin cathedral was in a very bad state and nobody knew how to reconstruct it. It was likely Sophia’s idea to search for an architect in Italy,” said architectural historian Federica Rossi.

Italian architect Aristotel Fiorovanti refused to reconstruct the dilapidated cathedral. Instead, he opened a brick factory and used the new materials for a new building. The Orthodox demands of the client were skillfully combined with the latest Renaissance innovations and in just four years a masterpiece was born.

“Some scholars believe that he not only created the Dormition Cathedral, but also began the construction of the Kremlin walls,” Rossi said.

Most of the Kremlin walls and towers were built by Pietro Antonio Solari and Marco Ruffo from Milan. Solari and Ruffo constructed the Palace of Facets – a small part of the grand palace that has not been preserved. Both architects are known in history under the common last name ‘Fryazin’, which is how the Moscovites called those who came from Italy.

Ivan III would never see this masterpiece of the Venetian school: the Cathedral of the Archangel. Its creator, Aloisio de Montagnano, came to Russia a year before the death of the ruler.

Shvidkovsky said that the Italian influence transformed Russian architecture: “After Italian architects worked in the Kremlin, Russian architecture became more joyful, more bright, more picturesque.”

But the work of Italian architects in Moscow extends beyond the Kremlin. The first so-called ‘tent-roof’ stone church in Russia was constructed in the summer residence of the Russian rulers, at Kolomenskoe, which is now part of Moscow. Little is known about its creator, Pietro Annibale, who, like many other Italian architects, never left Russia.

Rossi said: “He tried to escape Russia but he was stopped at the border. He was questioned and the documentation from that interrogation has survived, which gives us some insights into him. [He helped to create a new style here in Russia], and when a new style appears in architecture everyone starts to work with it.”

Like many researchers, Federica believes that the new style inspired the creator of Russia’s most famous cathedral, located in Red Square. Saint Basil’s Cathedral is composed of nine churches, and the central one has the same ‘tent-roof’ form. The name of the architect is still unknown.

“We see the dialogue of the Russian and European cultures in this cathedral; those cultures talk and listen to each other,” said Saint Basil’s Cathedral guide Maria Galkina.

There were dozens of Italian architects who came to Russia from Renaissance Italy.

Could one of them perhaps have been the creator of the masterpiece of Saint Basil?

This secret remains a mystery – one that may never be solved.

© Euronews. 25 July, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:34 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 25 July 2013 10:02 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 11 July 2012
Russian Kremlins Fail UNESCO Exam
Topic: Architecture


The Kremlin, Pskov 

This was the first time that UNESCO held its annual session in Russia. Russian people were most of all interested in the main issue on the agenda, the extension of the UNESCO World Heritage List. Russia had submitted an unusual serial nomination of ‘Russian Kremlins’ for consideration. It consisted of three fortresses dating back to the 13th -17th centuries. They were the Kremlins of old Russian cities, such as Pskov in the north-west of the country, Uglich in Central Russia and Astrakhan in the south, in the Volga delta. To many people’s disappointment, this nomination was declined.

The Kremlins of Pskov, Uglich and Astrakhan have been submitted by Russia for UNESCO’s consideration more than once. They have been on the so-called preliminary list for a long time, Irina Zayeeka from Russia’s Union of Architects who participated in the session says.

“According to the rules, before being put on the UNESCO list, monuments go through numerous expert examinations and then get on a preliminary list. Over 30 Russian monuments are on this list but all of them are stuck there without being discussed. The last Russian monument to be put on the preliminary list was the historical centre of Yaroslavl in 2005. Our main problem is that there is no executive body which would deal with Russian monuments of the World Cultural Heritage. This circumstance is an obstacle for controlling the preliminary list, preparing nominations and a lot of other events.”

Incidentally, at present the Russian cultural monuments that are on the preliminary list are very different in value. Among them are the 10th century city of Bolgar in Tatarstan and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour which was reconstructed from scratch in 1997 on the site of the demolished original cathedral. Generally speaking, these preliminary lists are a big headache and a reason for many countries to complain of UNESCO. For example, Italy, which heads the World Heritage List due to the number of its historical monuments, has submitted an additional list of 40 monuments most of which have been stuck for already six years. Spain follows Italy in respect of the number of its historical monuments, a lot of which are also on the ‘list of applicants’. The same is true of India, Japan and many other countries.

Naturally, all countries that have signed the UNESCO ‘protection convention’ do their best to make their cultural monuments well-known in the world. When a monument has been put on the UNESCO list, its status is elevated and it receives international support in case of any danger. If countries are so eager for their monuments to be put on the UNESCO list they should observe simple but very strict rules. They should ban new construction on the grounds of the monuments and in close proximity to them. They should also guard them well, otherwise the monuments will be deprived of their honourable status, which happened, for example, to Dresden in Germany after a bridge across the Elbe was built in the city’s historical area. Now English Liverpool is facing such a sanction because city construction is ‘infringing the rights’ of the historical docks. Alexey Butorin, a Russian participant in the UNESCO session, says that Russia has not violated the rules so far, so we hope to go up on the UNESCO list.

© The Voice of Russia. 11 July, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:03 PM EDT
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